Today is a church holiday called Reformation. It commemorates the work of the reformers, specifically Martin Luther, to try and bring the Catholic church back to a sound doctrinal position. He was a strong supporter of the church but did not support the places where they were deviating from scripture. His work to repair the problems in the Catholic church were ultimately unsuccessful, but the “protestants” did break off from the Catholic church to try and form churches that held to the teachings of the Bible.
As with all things human and sinful, some of those protestant groups also succumbed to falsehoods and inaccuracies over the years. It takes constant vigilance to keep the devil from eroding the basic truths of the Bible. That vigilance is what the church (or at least our church?) is really celebrating at Reformation. We’re not worshiping Martin Luther. We’re reminding ourselves to continue to test everything we are taught against the unerring Bible. We can sum it up in three phrases (often heard in Latin): sola scriptura, sola fide and sola gratia. Scripture alone reveals the saving work in Christ. Faith in that saving work of Christ is the only path to heaven. And grace, God’s undeserved love for us, is the only way we receive that saving work. If we hear teaching that involves non-Biblical “revelations from God”, requiring good works to get to heaven, or any part of the plan of salvation that requires our own input, those teachings are contrary to what God wrote for us in the Bible.
1 John 4:1-6
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
Want to learn more? Our church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, has a lot of resources available.